03 May 1993
World Press Freedom Day
The first World Press Freedom Day or simply, World Press Day was declared by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) on 3 May 1993. It is the anniversary of the Declaration of Windhoek which was held in Windhoek, Namibia between April 29 and 3 May, 1991.
- The World Press Day is observed to
- Celebrate the basic principles of the freedom of the press;
- Evaluate the state of press freedom all over the world;
- Defend the media from attacks on their freedom; and
- Pay homage to journalists who have lost their lives when doing their duty.
- The Windhoek Declaration was brought about by journalists in Africa in 1991. This document, which was later endorsed by the UNESCO General Conference, propounds a pluralistic, free and independent media throughout the globe. It also stated the serious condition of distress African media was in with instances of imprisonment, intimidation and censorship in Africa.
- On this occasion, citizens are told of the various instances of censorship and violations of press freedom happening in many countries. Media houses are fined, barred from publishing or closed down while journalists, editors and publishers are intimidated, harassed, imprisoned or even killed for bringing out the truth in many cases.
- This day also serves as a reminder to the governments, especially democracies, to work towards ensuring a free press and media since democracy and freedom of the press are intertwined ideas. A functioning democracy should sustain and it also requires a free press which can put a check on the excesses committed by state or non-state actors.
- In addition, this day also serves as a day for reflection and discussion among media professionals about the issues in press freedom and to talk about their own professional ethics.
- It exhorts governments all over to initiate measures that would guarantee press freedom and nurture an environment where journalists can do their jobs without fear.
- On this day, the UNESCO also confers the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to an individual or an organization that has done remarkable work in defending press freedom anywhere in the world. This award was started in 1997 after Guillermo Cano, a Columbian journalist who was murdered because of his writings against the Columbian drug lords.
- In 2018, the World Press Freedom Day is to be held in Accra, Ghana with the theme “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law”.
- Issues that will be discussed this year are: media and transparency of the political process; the judicial system’s independence and media literacy; government institution’s accountability towards the public; and challenges of ensuring press freedom online.
Also on this day
1896: Birth of ace diplomat and politician VK Krishna Menon. 1969: Death of India’s third president Zakir Husain.
See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.